Council pushes for Feb. 4 decision on Seng project

MANISTEE — The Manistee City Council made a commitment on Tuesday to address businessman Ed Seng’s prospective shipping project as soon as possible.

Seng attended Tuesday’s meeting asking the council for direction. He has been to several meetings — of both the Manistee City Council and the Manistee planning commission — asking to open a shipping port at the east end of River Street.

The current zoning of the area and a 2008 development agreement between the City of Manistee, Seng and Reith Riley, both prohibit his prospective business plan.

“I was here for the study session,” Seng said. “I was here for the last council meeting. I guess I’m here asking you what more is needed to be done to resolve my problem. How do we move forward from this point?”

Manistee city manager Mitch Deisch said that he and city attorney George Saylor are looking into the legal issue of whether two out of three parties involved in the development agreement could alter it without consent of the third party, Reith Riley. Reith Riley CEO Keith Rose vocally opposed changing the development agreement at a Jan. 14 work session.

“Through our negotiations, all three parties worked extremely well together,” Rose said. “Everything was out and on the table.Today, two of the three parties have honored all of the terms of the agreement. One has not. Tonight, we are talking about that person asking to waive the most important term of that agreement.

“From our position, we are asking you to maintain the agreement that all three parties negotiated in good faith, that two of the parties have lived up to to this point,” Rose continued.

City staff are also waiting to hear back from State of Michigan officials about whether or not changing the development agreement would impact a $400,000 grant the city received for improvements to the area.

“Personally, I’m not going to proceed until we (hear) back from them,” said mayor pro-tem Catherine Zaring.

At Tuesday’s meeting, mayor Colleen Kenny asked that the issue of the development agreement be put on a council agenda for a decision as soon as those questions are answered.

“I think we owe it to Mr. Seng to address his concerns as soon as possible,” she said.

As of Wednesday, Seng has filed a request for a zoning amendment and written a $1,000 check that accompanies the request.

“I think Mr. Seng deserves (a decision),” Kenny said. “He’s been pushing this. He has gone to the planning commission. He’s written a check, and I think that shows his commitment to this project. I think we owe it to him, as soon as we can, (make) a decision for him.”

If the outstanding questions are answered in time for the council’s Feb. 4 meeting, the topic will be put on that meeting agenda. Council also has a meeting planned for Feb. 18 if the questions remain unanswered by Feb. 4.

“Thank you very much for your concern,” Seng said. “If anyone has any questions for me, please call. I will gladly sit down and discuss this any time of day or night.”

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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